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Topic: [math-learn] Re: Lecture Isn't Effective: More Evidence #2
Replies: 12   Last Post: Jul 20, 2011 5:23 PM

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kathleen Offenholley

Posts: 79
Registered: 10/20/08
Re: [math-learn] Re: Lecture Isn't Effective: More Evidence #2
Posted: Jul 19, 2011 10:59 PM
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I was one of those motivated students. But my (traditionally taught) physics class bewildered me. I got through it by noticing that most of it seemed to be about first and second derivatives (I had had calculus). But I felt that I don't understand most of the biggest concepts -- gravity, objects attracting. I would have loved to see any of it actually at work, to have tried some experiments, to have dropped those two balls from the Tower of Piza and seen which one landed first.

When I was in high school, they had a math class for the "dumb" kids that involved lots of measuring and building things. And even though I was in Calculus and loved my (lecturing) professor, I wished I could build and measure things.

Lecturing is certainly efficient, or at least it feels that way and we are used to it. But I have had some of my best experiences discovering things for myself (perhaps in a very guided way, perhaps not) and I don't see why we should have lecturing OR exploration, why not room for both?

The whole idea of polar opposites, ones or zeros, it gets old. There is much of value -- for motivated and smart students, and for bored and disengaged ones as well, in the well-blended middle ground, that takes traditional and new paths and blends them. I would say more, but I would just end up hectoring you for not listening to each other. So I will stop.


Sent from my iPad

On Jul 16, 2011, at 9:11 PM, Robert Hansen <> wrote:

> Some of my thoughts on the so called "lecture debate". This posting began a a reply to the AP Calculus forum in resonse to a reference to an article by David Bressoud.
> The lecture versus no-lecture debate is, like other reforms, confusing to the accomplished mind. It is confusing because lectures are so ubiquitous in our lives and when we wish to communicate ideas to others we lecture without a second's hesitation. It is confusing to us that such a natural form of intellectual communication would be attacked by some educators as being anti teaching. How can something that we do so naturally be at the same time anti teaching? I am thrilled when my son try's to lecture me during a lesson. Nothing signals deeper learning than when the student tries to teach.
> Adding to the confusion is the fact that the proponents of no-lecturing use no other form but the lecture to try to sway us. Indeed, Eric Mazur, the father of the no-lecture movement, travels the country giving lectures about not lecturing. So if lecturing is so natural to even non-lecturers then what is their point? Well, first I want to note a very important point that Mazur makes regarding lectures and then I will address the more popularized debate we are familiar with. In one of Mazur's talks he makes the following insightful statement...
> "The traditional 50-minute lecture was geared more toward physics majors, said Eric Mazur, a physicist at Harvard who is a pioneer of the new approach, and whose work has influenced the change at M.I.T. The people who wanted to understand," Professor Mazur said, "had the discipline, the urge, to sit down afterwards and say, 'Let me figure this out.' "But for the majority, he said, a different approach is needed."
> So it is that the students that aspire to these subjects have the urge to figure things out and that urge inevitably leads to lecture. And those without the urge are going to get very little out of a lecture. This makes perfect sense. And if you read Mazur's lecture notes on the subject of no lecturing he repeatedly makes a distinction between these two groups of students. Those that aspire to the subject at hand and have this urge and those that do not, or at least, do not yet. And often, he is pretty explicit, even identifying those that will probably never have the urge, such as is the case with a physics class for business majors and a physics class for physics majors or engineering majors.
> So why is there a debate? It would seem that Mazur solved the riddle rather well. To a reasonable person at this point, a debate regarding lectures would be a debate of when to use lectures and when not. But that seems a done deal, so I ask again, why is there a debate? There is still a debate because the debate isn't about lectures.
> Traditionally, advanced courses like physics and calculus were attended by students with a very real urge and interest. The idea of putting a student that lacked that urge in such a class did not exist. So the traditional methods that we take for granted, like lectures, were naturally selected with these traditional students in mind.
> Over time, policy changes driven by various agendas, some noble and some not, directed and coerced more students into these classes. Teachers found themselves not just teaching the subject to the traditional student already with the urge and interest (that we took for granted), but also teaching students lacking these traits. First a few, and then more, and then many more.
> Naturally, these students, lacking a personal draw to the subject, did very poorly in an environment (and some would even say a subject) designed for those who were already drawn. Thus, this same group of policy makers that had directed these undrawn students into these classes then took to the Inventing of alternative ways to teach. And they based the worth of these new ways to teach not on the effect they have on the traditional student with the urge, but on the non-traditional student without. At first this slight was harmless. The traditional student was still doing their thing and the concern was with the non-traditional student that was floundering. But as time wore on and success eluded their every attempt, this slight became more deliberate and mean spirited. A new strategy evolved.
> Not being able to find a solution and growing ever more frustrated with their failure, these policy makers did a most horrible thing. They did what human nature unfortunately dictates in such a situation. They blamed their failure on others. They blamed their failure on the traditional methods suited for the traditional student. And they went even further than that. Not only did they blame their failure on the traditional methods, they made claims that the traditional methods were bad for all students. They began a campaign to strike from use any and all methods associated with the traditional student and their urges. Policy makers did this. Teachers did this. This urge is to teaching what the Hippocratic oath is to doctoring, yet they declared war on it and all teaching methods associated with it. No longer was teaching to be the primary act of feeding the urge.
> The lecture debate is not about lectures any more than the arithmetic debate was about arithmetic. The lecture debate and virtually all current reform debate is about refuting traditional students and their urges because if reformers do not refute these urges then they might as well turn off the lights and go home. Reform may have started out with noble intentions 50 years ago but they are certainly not noble any longer. Reformers may have started with the goal to make urge-full students out of all students but that proved to be frustratingly difficult and was abandoned (almost entirely) at least 20 years ago. It is still the policy makers' intent to coerce students into classes for which the students lack an urge for. And it is now the reformers task to hide that reality and their favorite theory on hiding it is to deny the urge and deny any method that implies the urge.
> Also, several weeks ago I voiced my puzzlement as to why reform theories have this common and explicit disdain for traditional theories. In all other areas of science each subsequent theory doesn't entirely refute the previous theory. It builds on it and reconciles with it. But then it dawned on me, especially in this lecture debate, reformists have long ago abandoned that approach. Reformists are not trying to build a new theory of education in the image of the traditional methods and successes. They also do not want any theory that has anything to do with urges because that implies haves and have-nots. A reformist debate is actually a very brief event. The reformist will proclaim success and the traditionalist will reply "But those aren't the results we were looking for?" And then the reformist will rebut "We decided that the results you were looking for were not the right results to look for." The motive in reform is not and has not been results for a couple decades now, long enough unfortunately for many teachers to not even know of a time when there were results.
> In my original post I called this the "Mazur Effect" and that might have come across as disparaging to Mazur. That was not my intent at all. It was Mazur's ideas that filled in some holes for me and it was Mazur's work that was so badly misinterpreted by people like Hake. You think there are problems in high school calculus? Spend some time around high school physics and you will praise high school calculus. If any one subject ever represented best that urge to figure things out it was high school physics. When you remove that urge from that subject it is I tell you the most unbearable thing to watch. I was frustrated with what I saw in math education, I was broken with what I saw with physics education. It was like having this fabulous piece of art at home that you love and you go on vacation, and when you return you find that your kids have destroyed it. As you gather the pieces together of what is left you are broken by the realization that it is gone but at the same time you can't blame the kids because they didn't understand what it was.
> I will say this though, I am certain that if Mazur was smart enough to identify the traits of the traditional student with the urge to figure things out then he also knows what is going on and how absurd some of these reform threads have become. That he says nothing of this dark side says something. And this goes for the rest of his establishment as well.
> Bob Hansen
> On Jul 16, 2011, at 6:21 PM, Richard Hake <> wrote:

> > Some subscribers to Math-Learn might be
> > interested in a discussion-list post "Re: Lecture
> > Isn't Effective: More Evidence #2" [Hake (2011)].
> >
> > The abstract reads:
> >
> > *************************************************
> > ABSTRACT: In reply to my post "Re: Lecture Isn't
> > Effective: More Evidence" at
> > <>, Ed Laughbaum of the
> > MathEdCC list wrote at <>:
> > "My guess is that of the nearly 6 billion people
> > on earth who have been (are being) educated,
> > learned through lecture. . . . . Is lecture a
> > common practice in China? In India? In Thailand?
> > In Brazil? Canada, etc.? My guess is yes. "
> >
> > To which Alain Schremmer replied "Yes, most
> > people in the world learn from lectures but this
> > is only because, in most of the world, there just
> > are no textbooks: the teacher writes the book on
> > the board and the students copy what's on the
> > board in their notebook."
> >
> > A MUST-READ all-time classic in this regard is
> > the hilarious "The Lecture System in Teaching
> > Science" [Morrison (1986)] online at
> > <>.
> >
> > Laughbaum went on to point out that the
> > effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of lectures is
> > related to the neurobiology of human memory as
> > discussed by Gerald M. Edelman
> > <>, Terry McDermott
> > <>, and Richard Restak
> > <>.
> > *************************************************
> >
> > To access the complete 13 kB post please click on <>.
> >
> > Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
> > Honorary Member, Curmudgeon Lodge of Deventer, The Netherlands
> > President, PEdants for Definitive Academic References which Recognize the
> > Invention of the Internet (PEDARRII)
> > <>
> > <>
> > <>
> > <>
> > <>
> >
> > "Like the entomologist in search of brightly
> > colored butterflies, my attention hunted, in the
> > garden of gray matter, cells with delicate and
> > elegant forms, the mysterious butterflies of the
> > soul."
> > -Santiago Ramón y Cajal
> > <>, quoted on p. 12 of
> > Edelman (2006)
> >
> > REFERENCES [URL's shortened by <> and accessed on 11 July 2011.]
> > Edelman, G.M. 2006. "Second nature: Brain science
> > and Human Knowledge". Yale University Press.
> > Publisher's information at
> > <>. information at
> > <>.
> >
> > Hake, R.R. 2011. "Re: Lecture Isn't Effective:
> > More Evidence #2," online on the OPEN! AERA-L
> > archives at <>. The abstract
> > and link to the complete post are being
> > transmitted to various discussion lists and are
> > also on my blog "Hake'sEdStuff" at
> > <> with a provision for
> > comments.
> >
> > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
> >
> >

> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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